Restoration of “Lindy’s” Jenny

By Phyllis (Mrs. David) Crago

Overlooked by far too many, a dedicated group of Long Island men with interest in aviation, including some TWAers, played a key role in linking yesterday with today. In the 1970s, the team undertook a painstaking restoration of the 1920s Jenny biplane, Charles Lindbergh’s very first airplane, and it was a major project of expertise and love.

 An enormous garage at the Glen Head, Long Island home of millionaire George Dade (1913-1998) provided the meeting place for the group. Each Wednesday evening they got together and worked on the Jenny, which would become a highly valuable and important archival item. Each person involved in the project had a personal history involving flight --inventors, manufacturers, airline pilots and ground personnel who made up the restoration crew.

 The Jenny earlier had been retrieved from a barn near Oelwein , Iowa , where it had languished for many years. A Mr. Stinson, the owner, had purchased the plane directly from Charles Lindbergh who piloted it from St. Louis to Oelwein. About a year before his death in Hawaii , Col. Lindbergh traveled to Long Island to authenticate the Jenny’s history, providing the team with written proof that the vintage aircraft was indeed the first he had owned. 

 Along with the Jenny’s rejuvenation, there was a replica of the Jenny simultaneously constructed by the group. Both the original restored Jenny and the replicated model are now displayed in the Cradle of Aviation Museum; Mitchell Field, Garden City on Long Island . The museum was opened to the public in the spring of 2002.

 For many years, Long Island has been at the forefront of man’s conquest of air and space. Charles Lindbergh embarked upon his famed 1927, “lone eagle,” transoceanic flight to Paris from Roosevelt Field, Mineola, Long Island . And as most know, he was one of the first pilots hired by TWA (then known as Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc.). TWA became known as “The Lindbergh Line,” a title it held for many decades thereafter.

 TWA’s David Crago (1913-2003) was a member of the team, which restored the Jenny and perpetuated its significant place in aviation history. David retired from Flight Planning as Supervisor of Special flights in 1976, and during his 34 years participated in much of the airline’s history, from the DC-3 to the super jets.

 He and his wife subsequently returned to live in the Kansas City , Missouri area.